Sweden has largely avoided lockdown strategies related to Covid-19, and its IPAs have followed suit by keeping assistance for existing businesses and potential investors with regards to the virus to a minimum. (Photo by Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)

Compared with the UK and Ireland, Scandinavian investment promotion agencies’ (IPAs) Covid-19 support rate is much lower, at 17%. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the region has not been hit as hard by the spread of the virus.

With the notorious exception of Sweden, which opted against implementing a lockdown or even using restrictive measures to limit the spread of the virus, and as of late 2020 had a total of 177,000 cases and more than 6,000 Covid-related deaths, the other countries in Scandinavia have fared relatively well with regards to both cases and deaths from the virus.

Still, some of the local IPAs have set up mechanisms to support both existing businesses and potential foreign investors.

IPAs move to mitigate Sweden’s Covid struggles

Sweden has the largest population in Scandinavia and the highest number of IPAs – 82 in total. However, perhaps reflecting its more hands-off approach to tackling the pandemic, it comes second after Norway for the rate of Covid support among its IPAs, at 31%.

Business Sweden, for example, has geared its Covid support web page towards advising businesses on how to “accelerate into the new business landscape”. Only mentioning Covid-19 once in the whole page, the national IPA offers white papers and research aimed at teaching entrepreneurs how to prepare for the post-pandemic world.

At a more local level, however, IPAs are offering and/or redirecting businesses towards financial support instruments. Invest Stockholm, for instance, has created the Stockholm Business Alliance, in collaboration with Business Sweden, to provide companies with key information to assist them in decision-making processes aimed at preventing their Swedish sites from downsizing.

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The strategy includes benchmarking analysis specific to any business sector/competitors; financial solutions and support; support in building a solid business case for the company’s site in Sweden; grants and incentives for the business; and supply chain support.

Norway leads the way for Scandinavian IPAs

With two of its four IPAs providing some form of Covid support, Norway offers the highest coverage in Scandinavia.

Business Region Kristiansand has teamed up with the tourism cluster USUS, the Entrepreneurs’ Association Building and Construction, the offshore technology cluster GCE NODE, the process industry cluster NCE EYDE and Kvadraturforeningen to set up a helpline.

Invest in Bergen has a section on its website that is specifically targeted at foreign investors, in which it lays out the relevant initiatives launched by the Norwegian government.

“The country’s Innovation Norway agency will be distributing Nk4.7bn ($520m) in extra grants and loans to innovative projects,” the website says. “These funding schemes will only be available to companies that create jobs in Norway. If you are a company that is developing innovative products or services, you should keep reading.”

Denmark and Finland have lower coverage rates. In Denmark, the only IPA to offer Covid assistance is Copenhagen Capacity, which has translated the government’s Relief Packages for Businesses for foreigners and offers access to a hotline.

In Finland, Turku Business Region will set up a call with a consultant and offers links to information regarding financial support for entrepreneurs, as well as guidance in other languages.

The IPAs in Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which have been only marginally hit by Covid-19, do not offer any support.